Tabatha Miller, Fort Bragg's City Manager for the past four years, got some unwelcome time in the local Facebook spin cycle in recent days when it was revealed that she had scheduled a job interview for the City Manager's position in Helena, Montana. Miller said Monday she has withdrawn her application.
The reason, she said, is the extremely personal and vindictive statements about her that appeared on Facebook and in a widely circulated email soon after the interview became public.
In a broadcast email, local activist and business owner Sierra Wooten called Miller a racist and a "Karen" for not intervening in a [non-] dispute Wooten was having with council member Lindy Peters. The interviews for the Helena position are to be live-streamed. Miller said she is not willing to deal with what she considers baseless accusations in that kind of a public setting.” I don't want to subject some other city to that, and I don't want to deal with it,” Miller said. She said the personal nature of criticism of public officials in Fort Bragg and sometimes extreme exaggeration that goes with it is something she has not experienced on the job elsewhere. As to what her job plans are, Miller said she doesn't know, but will honor the 45-day notice agreed to in her contract.
Last Monday, the Fort Bragg City Council held the closest thing to an ordinary meeting in a long time, with neither COVID-19 nor Braxton Bragg dominating the agenda. The council did talk over enforcement of mask-wearing. They unanimously passed a set of fines for violating public health orders in May, but the ordinance includes a warning followed by a 24-hour waiting period, which makes actual citations unlikely. Enforcement wasn't on the agenda; council members expect to take it up at their next meeting on Monday, July 27. According to City Manager Tabatha Miller, one complicating factor is that the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors chose to exclude incorporated areas from their mask-wearing ordinance, thereby leaving it up to city governments. Miller said most California counties passed a uniform ordinance that included cities as well.
The city's projected general fund deficit for the coming year has shrunk from $349,000 to $169,000 after cost adjustments including a COVID-related CAARE Act distribution from the state for $89,000 to cover some COVID related costs. Fort Bragg Police Chief John Naulty alerted the council that the city's population of homeless people is on the rise. The closure of Ukiah's homeless shelter after a resident tested positive, the end of county-funded emergency housing for homeless people during COVID, and the sudden departure of the Hospitality Center's director all have contributed to the increase, officials said.
The council will discuss the possibility of forming a Community Land Trust to try to create more affordable housing, and possibly to find a way to keep the central business district afloat. The city's rental assistance and water and sewer bill assistance progeams are also ready for applicants, Miller said. Renters needing help with either housing or utility costs should call Fort Bragg City Hall for details.